Kyle Bishop never had any doubt he’d end up on the sidelines. Neither did Jordan Hersom. For them, and other young football coaches in central Maine, coaching was a calling, not an option.

“I just didn’t want to do anything else but teach and become a coach. I think I made the right career choice,” said Bishop, 24, who is an assistant coach at Messalonskee, where he works with quarterbacks and defensive backs. “At Waterville (Senior High School) I had so many great teachers and coaches that really had a positive impact on myself and my friends, I knew I was in the right field.”

Across the region, assistant coaches in their 20s and early 30s are getting their start. They’re finding that passing along the game they love is just as rewarding as playing it.

“I always knew it was something I wanted to do,” said Jordan Hersom, 22, a first-year assistant coach at Gardiner. “The first time I walked, it was on a football field.”

Hersom’s tentative first steps came on the grass at Griffin Field in Livermore Falls, where his father, Jim Hersom, coached at the time. Jordan Hersom, who won the Fitzpatrick Trophy as the state’s top high school player as a senior at Leavitt in 2011, comes from a family of football coaches. His father has coached at numerous schools and is now head coach at Dirigo. His uncle, John Hersom, is head coach at Lawrence. His cousins coach, as did both grandfathers.

That family tie is often the first step in developing a young coach.

“My dad’s been doing it for 30 years and he really enjoys it. It runs through our family,” said Cam Bishop, 26, an assistant at Waterville. “It was something I always had in the back of my mind. Eventually, when it came down to it, I really thought it was something I’d enjoy.”

Kyle’s older brother, Cam Bishop, is a member of one of the youngest coaching staffs in the area. Bishop is joined by fellow assistants Dylan Veilleux, 31, and Johnny Hart, who is in his late-20s. A 2004 Waterville graduate, Veilleux played football at Husson University, but upon graduation did not feel the pull to the sidelines. It was a few years later that Veilleux thought it over and decided to get into coaching. After one season at Brewer, Veilleux returned to Waterville.

“At first, I didn’t want to be in the school system. It wasn’t something that was on my plate,” Veilleux said. “I finally said, ‘I’d really love to coach.’ Now that I’m doing it, I don’t want to stop.”

Cony head coach B.L. Lippert can relate. At 35, he’s one of the youngest head coaches in the state. Now in his second season as Cony’s head coach and 12th season of coaching football, Lippert can’t imagine doing anything else.

“I had no inkling. I graduated college, moved to Portland, and was selling insurance. I was pretty happy doing that,” Lippert said.

Then-Cony head coach Tom Hinds asked Lippert if he’d like to coach. The Rams were moving to the spread offense, and Lippert’s experience running the offense as a quarterback at Colby College made him a good fit to teach it. Lippert took the job, and then decided to change careers and become a teacher, helping feed his new love of instructing.

“It was far from my plans after college but now it’s a passion,” said Lippert, whose father Bob was a longtime defensive coordinator at Cony.

Like the Bishop brothers, Hersom knew what he was getting into after watching his father coach for years.

“My dad, I’ve seen all the prep and time he spent in the offseason, being a student of the game, staying up on how the game’s changing,” Hersom said.

Kyle Bishop played just one year of college football, before choosing to focus on his baseball career at Husson. While a student, he stayed involved in football by joining the Orono High School coaching staff. When he took a job teaching physical education at Hall-Dale Elementary School, a position opened on his father Brad’s staff at Messalonskee.

“I stuck with baseball, but this sport always had a special place in my heart and I wanted to stay involved,” Kyle Bishop said. “My grandfather coached and taught at Brunswick, then my dad, now my brother and I. Ever since I could walk, I followed my dad around.”

Just last fall, Hersom was starting in Husson’s secondary. Transitioning from playing to coaching can be jarring, Lippert said.

“When you play, you have a mindset of how things look out there. When you coach it, and you get into the fine details of it, it took a little bit more work and preparation than maybe I’d anticipated,” Lippert said. “You’ve got to coach everybody. Your best guy, your guy who is maybe further down the depth chart, teach them all. Preparing the whole team was more than concerning yourself as a player.”

Lippert said he and his coaching staff try to keep things as simple as possible for their players. Coming to grips with the fact that different players learn and pick up the game’s concepts at different speeds is something the young coaches said was a challenge.

“It’s interesting to see how kids learn and adapt to all the different types of plays. You try to find ways that kids can learn and adjust to all the plays. That’s probably the biggest adjustment,” Cam Bishop said.

Added Veilleux: “Everyone comes from a different background. You never know what you’re going to get when they come to you. At times it’s challenging, but it’s a love, so you work with it.”

Each young coach stressed how important mentors and influences have been to them. For the Bishops and Hermon, their father was instrumental in their decision to coach. Hersom and Veilleux praised Husson head coach Gabby Price, their collegiate coach, as did Cam Bishop, who worked for Price after graduating from Bowdoin College a few years ago. Sometimes, Veilleux said, he’ll talk to a player and think to himself, that’s something Coach Price would say.

“Sometimes, I feel like I even sound like him, vocally. You hear him saying things and it comes back in your head. You’re thinking it before you say it,” Veilleux said.

“My father… while he’s hard on his kids, he shows he cares and he does things the right way. I had great coaches in high school, Coach (Frank) Knight, Coach (Dennis) Martin, who I’m with (at Messalonskee) now, Coach (Don) Sawyer,” Kyle Bishop said. “All had success. You do things the right way and you treat people the way they should be treated, like how I was, I think that’s the right way to follow things.”

Each young coach carries the advice of those who came before. Hersom said he tries to make practices up tempo and tough, so when players are in the game Friday night, it slows down for them. Veilleux said his mother, Jody Veilleux, a teacher, told him coaching will reveal his character.

“It’s been a great situation and I love being where I am,” Veilleux said. “It will teach you who you want to be.”

Kyle Bishop said the best coaching advice he’s received is never get too high or too low. Things are never as bad or as good as they seem. Camp Bishop said the best advice he’s heard is control what you can control. Lippert said when he speaks to younger coaches, his advice is to simply be patient.

“I think when I first coached, I really was demanding and had the highest of expectations, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You have to have realistic expectations as well. Not everyone shares the same passion or has the desire to work year-round at it,” Lippert said. “Kids have lives. To think that they’re going to want to be in the weight room six days a week in the summer and go to everything is just unrealistic. Have that line, where you want to be demanding and pushing your program to its upper limits, but have a realistic look on things as well.”

Hersom said he won’t remember the wins and losses as much as he’ll remember the bonds he forms with his players and fellow coaches.

“The relationships are what you’ll really remember. That’s what I’m in it for,” Hersom said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarcykMTM


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